Friday, September 7, 2018

Evangelical Presuppositions: Why they are just flat out wrong!

I often hear or read where someone has said or written that the bible speaks plainly on this or that subject, and furthermore they are confident that the bible truly says such and such. You can hear preachers say it is tight but it is right. By this they mean that the message may not indeed be popular, but it is the clear message never-the-less. All of these assertions are made upon certain presuppositions that exist in the thought processes and reasoning but are not frequently stated.

Presupposition number 1: The bible is written specifically to the audience reading it no matter what time or occasion. Most go so far as to believe and teach that it was written specifically to the generation they are a part of.

Wrong: the bible is primarily written to a specific generation and specific occasion. What people think as universal truths are not nearly so universal as they think. The most important message focus of the scripture is the one that the intended readers, hearers would have arrived at given their historical context, understanding, and the occasion written too.

Presupposition number 2: The entire bible is the Word of God for all times.

Wrong: This is patently false. The old testament defines the word of God as the Torah. The New Testament defines the word of God as the gospel of Jesus Christ, and Jesus Himself the gospel made flesh.

Presupposition number 3: The bible is a legal constitutional document provided by God for humanity.

Wrong: While the Torah was indeed a legal institutional document for Old Covenant Israel, the New Testament teaches that the purpose and focus of scripture is redemptive in nature. It speaks of Jesus the Messiah and his mission of reconciliation. The legal constitutional use of scripture was a teacher meant to drive one to Christ for reconciliation with God.

The three presuppositions mentioned above are responsible for the gross misunderstanding of the Christian message. It is the reason that the pure gospel of grace is not taught without mixture. It is indeed the prophesied leaven of the Pharisees and is the source of the strong delusion prophesied by Paul.

The fact is that for the New Covenant era, the bible is the redemptive narrative. It is a love story that tells of how God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. It is a story that shows that there are no lengths that God is unwilling to go in reestablishing a pre-fall relationship with humanity. This alone is the focus of the gospel and the gospel alone is the focus of scripture.

Monday, August 27, 2018

The first century gospel was transformative; The transformation operation explained

The first century gospel was radical. It was transformative. And I fear that it is not properly understood in this time. Today there seems to be three main iterations of the church and its doctrinal message. By iteration, I mean its third definition which is version or incarnation. The three iterations, versions are as follows:
  • The ultra important focus is on correct doctrine and theology.
  • The ultra important focus is on the functioning of the Spirit supernaturally.
  • The ultra important focus is on liturgy and historical religious practice.
All of the above focus areas ignore the radical nature of the first century gospel spread by the apostles in general, but subsequently, in large part by the Apostle Paul. After all it is Paul and Silas that were accused of turning the world upside down in Acts 17:6, and when those seeking to incarcerate them could not find them in Thessalonica, they arrested Jason and others. So what is the gospel that turned the world upside down? It was the good news that explained to human beings that they had been reconciled to God by the faith of Christ. It was the good news that they were eternal beings, and that they could look forward to resurrection and eternal life. It was the good news that they were totally justified by God based upon the faithful obedience of Christ Jesus who was willing to die to prove that the resurrection was real. It was the good news that they could in fact apprehend this justification by believing it to be true. This is truly a radical message. It expressed the fact that there was absolutely nothing that one could do to gain favor with God. Justification was not based on any sort of obedience except the obedience of faith. The obedient act was to apprehend, trust in, rely on, and cling too the fact that God was in Christ Jesus reconciling the world to himself and not counting sin against anyone. Further, that he made Jesus who did not know sin/unbelief to be made sin/unbelief for all which in turn made them the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ.

When one understands the above to be absolutely true, one would then truly love God with all their heart, all their soul, and all their strength (Deu 6:5.) In fact, if one truly trusts in, relies on, and clings too the gospel message, it would be impossible not to love God. Subsequently, it is this real love for God that is the transformative impetus. Likewise it was the real love for God, birthed from the real gospel message, the message that is truly good news indeed, that would generate heart felt obedience to the law of God. In order for this transformation to really take place, one has to completely rest in this fact no matter what, and must never use their obedience to determine their standing before God. Those who would cry antinomian at this just simply do not understand the gospel and the operation of the gospel in the transformation process.

Justification is not a one time event that ushers one into the possibility of salvation. Justification is ongoing, and it is ongoing based on continuing faith. That is why the author of Hebrews speaks about the importance of perseverance of faith. It is not a matter that would have one no longer justified. It is a matter of practicality. If one feels they can lose the justification as the result of behavior, then the supernatural transformation that comes from believing the gospel ceases. Paul explains in Romans the source of this supernatural transformation. Rom 5:1 CSB "Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." The foundation of the transformation is peace with God. It is the good news. 

Peace with God sets the person free from fear, allows them to rest in grace which in turn produces the transforming love. So how should the Law be used? As Paul states it should be a tutor that drives one to Christ for justification and peace with God, but then, if the true gospel is taught and believed, then the Law could be used to promote loving accountability. This would happen only within a community where the real true gospel is believed and taught. In this environment the Law would never be used to judge. It would be used only to inform one of the true heart of God. 

In the three iterations listed above, they all promote using the law as a standard of righteousness. Further, the law is used to try to force people to transform themselves by a read and do process. That never works. Paul unequivocally states two things: 1) no one will be justified by the works of the law and 2) Christ is the termination of the law for righteousness. So why is the law such an important focus of all three of the iterations mentioned above? The only possible answer is that these versions do not understand the catalyst of the transformation process, and have altered the original first century gospel that turned the world upside down.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Implications of Paul's Message: The teaching of a first century Jewish Rabbi and his revelation about Torah Part II

First post in this series... In case you would like to read it after reading this one.

In that first post it was established that when Paul, and the other first century followers of Christ, used the term nomos/law, they mean Torah and not just the so called moral law. With this in mind, let's look at the following passage of the New Testament.

(Act 15:5)  "But some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”

There can be no doubt that the afore mentioned Pharisees were referring to the entire Torah, and not just the so called moral law in this instance. This was the thrust of the Jerusalem Council. In fact, this is the first major council in which the leaders of the church met to decide an issue that had arisen. It was initiated by Paul and Barnabas going up to Jerusalem about this matter. Further, it is important to understand this in light of Paul's statement in Romans... Rom 10:4  "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" 

There are essentially two groups of evangelicals that have put their meaning to the fifteenth chapter of Acts. One are those who say that they were only meeting about the food and temple laws and the others are Messianic Jews who believe that the instructions for the Gentiles are transitional and that the time would come when they would be obligated by the Torah. Both groups deem anyone literally believing Romans 4:10 antinomian. Yet, it is clearly established that Paul most definitely meant Torah when he used the word nomos. So then, in the eyes of the above groups, Paul had to be an antinomian.

Let's again see what Paul really said in Romans 10:4. He said that Christ was the termination of the Law/Torah for righteousness. Christ is not the termination of the Law/Torah for understanding what God considers the best for humanity. Christ was the termination of the Law/Torah for determining righteousness.

Both groups however, see the Law/Torah still in operation for righteousness. The one group sees only the so called moral law, and the other sees the entire Torah. Both establish a read and do mentality. Paul goes on to make a distinction between the Law/Torah and the Spirit. He refers to the Law/Torah as the letter. (2Co 3:6)  "He has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." What Paul is saying in this verse is that the Law/Torah kills, but the Spirit gives life. This entire passage in second Corinthians 3 is written to discuss the very issue that was taken up in Acts 15 at the Council of Jerusalem. Those who wanted to demand that the Gentiles obey the Torah did not go away willingly. They stayed around and continued to teach their heresy. But, what is even more dangerous are the ones who claim that Law only meant the dietary, festival and sacrificial laws. They are the ones that have frustrated the gospel of grace and made it of no effect.

Considering 2Cor 3:6, how indeed does the Spirit give/bring life? The answer is simple. It is through the gospel of grace. Paul will explain that in 2Cor 5...  2Co 5:18-21  "Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.  (19)  That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us.  (20)  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: “Be reconciled to God.”  (21)  He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

This is why Romans 5:1 and the Hebrews' 3 & 4 description of the Sabbath Rest are so important. It is imperative that one rest in Romans 5:1 before the Spirit can bring life! It is peace with God that brings genuine love for God that brings spiritual life. The Law/Torah can inform the one resting in God's grace the heart of God. The more rested, the more the Law/Torah can inform the individual how to react to God's grace. Not to establish righteousness, but to demonstrate love for God.

Unfortunately, Law/Torah righteousness is so deeply ingrained in the saints because of the leaven of the Pharisees, that it takes radical and drastic rest to bring about Spiritual life. Whereas, if the pure gospel was the norm, the Law/Torah could be much more effectively used to inform the saint of the heart of God. But, since Law/Torah righteousness is a main framework of evangelical doctrine the life that results from resting in Jesus can never completely come to fruition.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Gospel According to Paul: Part 1

Why the title? What is the gospel according to Paul? Of course, there is no "gospel" written that was allegedly written by the apostle Paul. There are ancient gospels that are not in the Christian Canon but, none of them are from Paul. And yet, Paul defined the gospel more specifically than any other writer. In the gospels, the term is indicative of a writing that tells of the time of Jesus' earthly ministry, but there is a difference between the term gospel, and the writings called gospels. It is with this in mind that I use the title, the gospel according to Paul. He came on the scene later than all the other writers. However, he received revelation later than any other writer. It was later in a transition that was taking place within the pages of the writings. It was a transition from John the Baptist, a strictly Jewish Old Testament prophet, to Jesus the embodiment of the gospel, to the crucifixion and resurrection, to the institution of the New Covenant, to a strictly Jewish church, to the inclusion of the gentiles, and the anticipation of the one new man/new creature. This makes Paul's revelation progressively more complete than the others which in turn makes Paul's definition of the gospel, or in other words, the gospel according to Paul more important in our understanding of the New Covenant Saint that is the "one new man."

The New Testament scripture is replete with the term good news. The the title of the four gospels essentially means, the good news according to, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John respectively. Furthermore, there is some question to exactly what the good news is. Jesus use of the term is linked to his fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1-3. He is quoted as saying as much in Luke 4:16-21. So the gospel is best described in Old Testament terms as the following: Isa 61:1-3 CSB  "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners;  (2)  to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn,  (3)  to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the LORD to glorify him." Let's list it in a bullet list:
  • bring good news to the poor
  • heal the brokenhearted
  • proclaim liberty to the captives
  • freedom to the prisoners
  • to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
  • and the day of our God’s vengeance
  • to comfort all who mourn
  • to provide for those who mourn in Zion
  • to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning
  • festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair
  • And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the LORD to glorify him
With the above description, the foundation point of Jesus reference to the good news that was proclaimed and fulfilled, let's look at what Paul says. Rom 1:16-17 CSB  "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.  (17)  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith."  Salvation has more than one meaning in the pages of the New Testament. In the gospels, it most certainly means salvation from the impending judgment of Rome on Jerusalem and all of Judea. However, Paul's use of the term is more in line with the current evangelical connotation of the word.

In the synoptic gospels, the words, saved and salvation are connected to being saved from the impending judgment, but in John's gospel and Acts, saved and salvation are akin to redemption and being made right with God. In those works salvation is the result of justification and redemption. This is true to a lesser degree in Luke's gospel, and to a much greater degree in Luke's Acts of the Apostles. The good news according to Paul is that Jesus perfect faith in the Father has set humanity to rights with God.

The red letter Christians, those who emphasize the words of Jesus over Paul miss this transition and in effect create two gospels. The truth is that the gospel is the gospel, but Paul's revelation of justification and redemption are much more complete and emphasize a spiritual reality rather than physical salvation. In this series we will look at the reasons that Paul's revelation for the "one new man" has ultimate importance. In many of the pages of the New Testament writings, there is a sense of both physical and spiritual salvation with a transition that will limit the physical salvation to 70AD leaving only spiritual salvation from that time forward.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Implications of Paul's Message: The teaching of a first century Jewish Rabbi and his revelation about Torah Part I

Understanding Paul requires one look at first century Judaism. The reason is, that Jesus, his immediate disciples, and the Apostle Paul were all Jews, steeped in first century Judaism. More than that, Paul was a very learned Rabbi, who the New Testament explains studied under the Rabbi Gamaliel. Gamaliel was a famous rabbi who was the grandson of the one of the most influential rabbis of the first century, Rabbi Hillel. Therefore Paul has to be understood within the framework of first century Judaism. One of the flaws of modern evangelical Christianity is that Paul is thought of in terms of Greek thought rather than Judaism.

While it is true that Paul was schooled in Greek, it is not true that he thought in Greek terms. He said in Philippians that he was a Hebrew's Hebrew. My reason for bringing this up is to examine what Paul undoubtedly meant when he used the Greek word nomos/law. He did not mean the ten commandments, nor did he mean the food/kosher laws. He would have mean the Torah. He would have meant the first five books of the Old Testament, or as it was referred to in Hebrew, the Tanakh.

To add perspective, Paul used the term nomos 144 times in 103 verses in his writings. That is a lot of emphasis on nomos, and I have concluded that each use referred to the Torah. With this in mind, let's look at Romans 10:4. I am using the CSB (Christian Standard Bible) formerly the HCSB, the H standing for Holman. Rom 10:4  "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes," I want to point out a couple of things. One is that you can substitute Torah for law, and two, he states that Christ is the END of the Torah for righteousness. I want to emphasize that he does not say the end of the Torah but rather, the end of the Torah for righteousness.

This eliminates the idea that the only law that ended was the dietary laws. Let's take a minute to examine the word end. The Greek word used is telos. Let me provide the definition at this point. τέλος telos tel'-os
From a primary word τέλλω tellō (to set out for a definite point or goal); properly the point aimed at as a limit, that is, (by implication) the conclusion of an act or state (termination [literally, figuratively or indefinitely], result [immediate, ultimate or prophetic], purpose); specifically an impost or levy (as paid): - + continual, custom, end (-ing), finally, uttermost. 

When you look at the above definition; Paul states quite clearly that "Christ is the termination of the Torah for righteousness." It is important to see what lead Paul to write the above sentence.  Rom 10:1-3 CSB  Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation.  (2)  I can testify about them that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  (3)  Since they are ignorant of the righteousness of God and attempted to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness. How were they trying to establish their own righteousness? The answer is obviously simple. They were trying to establish their own righteousness by reading, memorizing, and doing the Torah. In other words, they were trying to live up to the 632 laws found in the Torah. In fact, Paul states in Philippians chapter three that when it comes to the righteousness of the Torah, he was blameless. He goes on to say that he counts that all rubbish to be found in Jesus having a righteousness that comes by faith.

The point of this post is two fold. First and foremost it is to establish that Paul meant Torah when he referred to nomos/law. However beyond that, it is actually impossible that he meant only the food laws or the sacrificial law. No, he indeed meant the Torah, the five books of Moses including what evangelical Christianity deems the moral law.  And therefore, Paul clearly meant that Christ was the termination of the Torah for righteousness. We will explore the ramifications of this in future posts. Suffice it to say that imputed righteousness, imputed for faith in God's declaration will produce the mind set that supernaturally will result in transformation.... more to come on this.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The purpose of the gospel is not to make you a better person

If one listens to the main focus of evangelical Christianity, one would conclude that the main purpose of the gospel is to make one a better person. That is patently false and a gross error. While it is true, that when PROPERLY UNDERSTOOD, the gospel can make one a better person, act better etc., it is in no way the purpose of the gospel. When I mention the purpose of the gospel, I am referring to the purpose that God had in the gospel before creation. Usually the New Testament writers state it this way... before the foundation of the world. Well, before the foundation of the world means before creation or before anything was created. Further, I would like to state that before creation is a term that helps with understanding from mankind's linear perspective, and is not necessarily a term that God would use except in communicating with us humans.

So you ask, what was the purpose of the gospel. You can find the answer to that in reading the first chapter of Ephesians. It was so that we would praise God's glorious grace. The gospel provided a way for us to know that we were/are holy and blameless in the sight of God. He did that out of love. Ultimately to the praise of his glorious grace, and there you have the purpose of the gospel. If one visits the average evangelical church these days, one would not readily get that purpose put forth on a regular basis. One would be told that the gospel was to get one to heaven as opposed to hell. One would say that the gospel was mainly for the forgiveness of sin. But not many, if any would state that God's purpose was to bring glory to himself by his unfathomable grace.

Here is a most important clue to this purpose. Romans 5:1 states the following.... Rom 5:1  "Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." It is peace with God that brings praise to his glorious grace. Peace with God is the foundation of the transformation process. Yes, transformation is a process, an ever expanding process. However, it will only be an ever expanding, never ending process so long as the real gospel of grace is properly understood. This is precisely where evangelical Christianity has failed so miserably. The purpose of the gospel has been twisted to focus on one becoming a better and more godly individual. That is far from the real main focus. That would be an ancillary consequence of proper understanding of the true gospel of grace. It would be a natural offshoot of proper gospel understanding, but is NEVER allowed to come to fruition through evangelical doctrine and dogma.

Here are the gospel facts. They are unalterable!

  • God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting trespasses or sins.
  • God has declared humanity righteous because of the faith of Christ. We are not declared righteous by our faith, but rather by the faith of Jesus Christ.
  • The gospel message simply put is this...  that in view of Christ Jesus being declared righteous because of his faith, he has become the ultimate and last representative of humanity. Apprehending that fact by faith gives us complete peace with God.
  • We are not now nor, will we ever be declared, shown righteous by our adherence the law
  • Completely resting in Romans 5:1, will bring supernatural love for God. It is imperative to realize that one must rest in Romans 5:1 no matter what behavior one sees in themselves.
  • The supernatural love produced by God's grace will begin the process of transforming the saint into a more godly and righteous person. The gospel, and ONLY the gospel is responsible for truly changing behavior as a natural consequence to faith in the gospel.
Evangelical Christianity, and Christianity in general as far as it goes, has grossly missed this most important concept and has therefore robbed the gospel of grace of its supernatural power. The sooner this is understood, believed, and proclaimed, the sooner Christ will have influence on all of humanity. This was the gospel that changed the world in the first century and sadly is not the gospel taught today.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The two overriding messages of the scripture

While this blog is dedicated to my paradigm shift it is also about the way in which evangelical Christianity is off the mark in doctrine and dogma. As I see it, there are essentially two over-riding over-arching themes to the Christian message. One is transformational grace and the other is the importance of social and human justice. By that I mean taking care of the less fortunate. Whether it be giving shelter to the homeless, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and ministering to the needs of the sick it is a very important focus of the scripture whether Old Covenant or New Covenant.

By contrast, evangelical doctrine, especially in the United States, is focused on moral improvement by law obedience, and the freedom to enjoy the fruit of ones labor in a selfish, self-centered manner. This is further proof that the strong delusion of 2 Thessalonians, and the leaven of the Pharisees is in reality playing out in evangelical culture. This accepted evangelical doctrine is definitely not the message of the New Testament scripture.

How does one reconcile the message of Matthew 25:31-46 and the gospel of grace? It is easy when one realizes the mode and method for supernatural transformation. It is grace working to promote love. Faith working through love, is the method by which one can begin to love one's neighbor as oneself. It is instructive that when you look at the passage that describes a scribe/law expert in Luke chapter 10. The scribe quotes Lev 19:18 which says "love your neighbor as yourself." When Jesus tells him he is right about the great commandments he then, trying to justify himself asks the question but who is my neighbor? Jesus then tells the parable of the "Good Samaritan."

I have read authors who claim that Matthew 25:31-46 is strictly about Jewish brothers during the great tribulation. This tends to absolve all who take the current position concerning social justice and the responsibility the believer has to make it important. The parable of the "Good Samaritan" eliminates that possibility as Jesus saw that loving ones neighbor as oneself was to love your enemies. The Samaritans were considered enemies of the Jews and were greatly discriminated against. Yet the "Good Samaritan" used his wealth to look after the welfare of person that was robbed and injured along the road.

It must be noted that there is a direct correlation between Matthew 25:31-46 and Isaiah 58. Isa 58:6-9  "Isn’t this the fast I choose: To break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke?  (7)  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and not to ignore your own flesh and blood?  (8)  Then your light will appear like the dawn, and your recovery will come quickly. Your righteousness will go before you, and the LORD’s glory will be your rear guard.  (9)  At that time, when you call, the LORD will answer; when you cry out, he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you get rid of the yoke among you, the finger-pointing and malicious speaking," However, the gospel of grace affords the opportunity to show this kind of uncommon neighborly love. Not out of compulsion based on a commandment, but of unfeigned love promoted solely by having peace with God because of justification by faith (Rom 5:1.)

Therefore, the gospel of Christ is a two pronged message: 1) Reconciliation with the Father based solely on God's decree.  2) brotherly love which promotes social justice. Both of these are sorely lacking in most evangelical doctrine. This is especially true with the so called "Christian Right." If you look at Isaiah chapters 3-5 and Amos chapter 5, it will become readily apparent that social justice was a mandate for the governing body. In Israel's case it was the elders in the gates. During biblical times, "elders in the gates" was indicative of governmental authority. The biblical data does not support anything else.

Evangelical Presuppositions: Why they are just flat out wrong!

I often hear or read where someone has said or written that the bible speaks plainly on this or that subject, and furthermore they are confi...